In today’s edition of our most overrated series, we will review the three most overrated first basemen currently in the game. Previously, we covered catchers and there may have been a surprise or two in that list. Will there be a surprise on today’s list? You won’t be finding an NL MVP favorite on this list.
The criteria for making this list of the most overrated first basemen are national attention, contract terms, and injury frequency. Statistics will also play a key role, but more recent seasons will carry more weight than a career. Let’s begin.
3 Most Overrated First Basemen
3. Brandon Belt, San Francisco Giants
🥶 Brandon Belt (SF) has failed to exceed 0.5 RBIs in 14 of his last 15 games on the road (0.1 RBIs/game average).
— Fansure MLB (@Fansure_MLB) July 25, 2022
Leading it off for us today is a man coming off of a season in which he hit 29 home runs in 97 games. Currently in his 12th season in The Bigs, those 29 single-season home runs set a new career high for him. His previous career high? 18.
Belt’s 2021 was a huge outlier as his home run rate skyrocketed to 7.6% for the year whereas his career home run rate was a slightly-above-average 3.1% going into 2021. His strikeout rate also rose tremendously from 23.2% pre-21 to 27% during 2021 and carrying over into this season where it currently sits at 27.7%, 6% higher than the league average.
With all 12 of his Major League seasons coming as a member of the San Francisco Giants, Brandon Belt was a part of the 2012 and 2014 World Series Champion teams. Over his career, he has hit to a line of .263/.357/.462 with 175 home runs and a 124 OPS+. Expectations for him to recreate last season, power surge and all, are what lands him (and the Giants) on the overrated list.
2. C.J. Cron, Colorado Rockies
We continue this list with a man that was nationally regarded as an NL MVP front runner earlier this season. C.J. Cron does have a respectable line to this point in the season, batting .292/.347/.546 with 22 home runs and a 137 OPS+. When you take a deeper dive into his numbers, however, things become more clear.
A member of the Colorado Rockies, Cron has the advantage of the “Coors Field effect,” in which balls fly further due to the low air pressure, and the outfield is bigger than most others in the sport. This is made evident by his home/away splits. At home, he has hit .352/.393/.674 with 16 of his home runs and a 192 OPS+. On the road, he has hit .223/.294/.398 with six home runs and a 97 OPS+
Playing at Coors Field can be difficult to get used to, I will admit. But with home/away splits that drastic, there should be no reason for him to garner MVP notoriety. And that is the prime reason for him making it on this list of most overrated first basemen.
1. Pete Alonso, New York Mets
Most RBI by a @Mets player before All-Star break:
2022 – Pete Alonso 75
2006 – David Wright 74
2000 – Mike Piazza 72 pic.twitter.com/8QhYsZtNxw
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) July 16, 2022
We go from a man whose best attribute is playing at his home ballpark to one whose best attribute is hitting balls really hard and really far, Pete Alonso. With the entirety of his career so far being spent with the New York Mets, Alonso debuted with a vengeance in 2019. Leading MLB in home runs that year with 53, he took home the NL RotY with ease.
In the three years since 2019, Alonso has hit a total of 78 home runs in 304 games. His home run rate over that time is 6.1% compared to the 7.7% of his rookie season. Not only has his home run rate dropped, but in every year since 2019, his walk rate has also declined, starting at 10.4% then to 8.6% now.
This year, most of Alonso’s national praise is coming due to his MLB-leading 82 RBI. Yes, getting hits with men on base is a good thing, but the player that earns the RBI has no control over whether or not someone is on base in front of him.
Having Pete Alonso on this list is not to say that he isn’t a good player. He makes this list because he is nationally regarded as the player he was in his rookie season instead of the player that he actually is which isn’t a 53-home-run guy, but more a 35-home-run guy. That makes him the most overrated first basemen in the game.
With Pete Alonso and Brandon Belt, they are not necessarily bad players, as much as people have just put too high of expectations on them. You can definitely expect to see more players in that regard throughout the rest of this series.
That will conclude this list of the most overrated first basemen. Keep an eye out for the next entry in the series when we will cover second basemen!